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Tesla Sprinters

Tesla's Musk suggests cooperation with Daimler

Responding to a customer miffed that Tesla's service vans came from another manufacturer, transportation wunderkind Musk said he will contact the German carmaker about working together. Andrew Bulkeley

Handelsblatt Global vom 20.11.2018 um 16:30:09 Uhr

For car industry veterans, it might seem a shocking development but for fans of Elon Musk, it seems hardly surprising. The founder and CEO of electric carmaker Tesla on Monday took to Twitter to suggest a possible van cooperation with Stuttgart-based Daimler, which makes the Sprinter delivery van ubiquitous on European streets.

Musk said he would inquire with Daimler about a possible joint effort, even publicly brainstorming a few details – the cooperation, he tweeted, could see Daimler delivering shells of vans with Musk’s Palo-Alto, Calif.-based carmaker then adding in an electric drivetrain, battery and related technology. Tesla, he said, is too busy to develop its own version now but could in the future.

The tweet was in response to a customer impressed by Tesla’s service – the car company had sent a mechanic in a Ford van to fix a customer’s flat tire. Another user wondered why the van was from Ford and not Tesla. It was Musk himself who brought Daimler into the picture.

Maybe interesting to work with Daimler/Mercedes on an electric Sprinter. That’s a great van. We will inquire.

– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 19, 2018

Daimler in September completed a $500 million expansion that tripled the size of its Sprinter factory in Charleston, South Carolina. The plant has helped Daimler circumvent tariffs on German-produced vans sold in the US by completing final assembly on US soil. It has already bagged an order from Amazon to deliver 20,000 Sprinters.

Daimler also chose Twitter to respond to Musk.

Thanks for the flowers! And yeah, it’s a great vanÁ¢Â€ÂŠ Á°ÂŸÂ€Â’

– Daimler AG (@Daimler) November 19, 2018

Musk’s choice for Daimler probably wasn’t random – the two have been partners for nearly a decade. In 2009, the German carmaker bought 9.1% of Tesla giving the then-upstart carmaker a needed financial injection as well as recognition from an established company. Tesla in turn produced an electric drivetrain for Daimler’s Mercedes B-Class compact electric car as well as batteries for its electric Smart city car.

Daimler purchased its minority stake before Tesla’s 2010 initial public offer and would only say it paid in the double-digit millions. It eventually sold a 5 percent holding to Abu Dhabi’s Aabar sovereign wealth fund and then exited Tesla completely in 2014, selling its remaining 4.1 percent stake on the market for $780 million.

“A financial investment isn’t necessary for our partnership and cooperation,” CFO Bodo Uebber said at the time.

Investors shrugged on Tuesday – Daimler shares traded EURO 0.13 lower in early afternoon Frankfurt trade at EURO 50.32.

Andrew Bulkeley is an editor in Berlin for Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: a.bulkeley@handelsblattgroup.com

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